Just for Fun. . .
Torn between two worlds

Don Burleson
10 May 2005


Janet and I take our responsibilities as parents very seriously.  As a half-Irishman, I have two distinct responsibilities, one to honor my families Colonial American traditions and my dual responsibility to pass-on the ancient Irish traditions. 

I’m a half-breed, torn between two worlds, and neither group accepts me!

Even though I took my kids to an Irish Gaeltacht community so they could learn to speak a few Gaelic phrases and understand their Celtic roots, I’m still a just a “Yank” to them.  Same thing with my North Carolina extended family, who considers me an “honorary” Southerner because my Mother was European. . . .

Even though we grew-up with guns everywhere, Janet and I were “modern” parents, and we disposed of our guns when the kids came along.  We really thought that we were doing the right thing at the time, but alas, my extended family does not agree. . . .

Awhile back we were visiting with Cousin Hazel when her son Todd came-in carrying a freshly killed raccoon.  Todd was grinning ear-to-ear and he could hardly contain his pride as he slapped him down on the table before us, the coon’s glassy eyes looking up at me and his long tongue draped on the tablecloth. 

“He’s a beauty, huh?  I nailed him at the dump while he was eatin’ a dirty diaper”. 

Now I’m well-briefed on Emily Post etiquette, so I replied.  “Yup, he’s a good-un. Nice heavy pelt and you got a great head-shot.  He’ll make a fine coonskin cap.” 

Todd agreed and later skinned his hide for a "Daniel Boone" cap, with is a misnomer since Dan Boone despised coonskin caps: 

"My father, Daniel Boone, always despised the raccoon fur caps and did not wear one himself, as he always had a hat." -- Nathan Boone

By the way, our great (7th) grandpa, Aaron Burleson was a good friend of Daniel Boone (Daniel Boone’s parents are buried right up the road) and Aaron Burleson helped him open-up the Cumberland Gap to settlers. 

Aaron was later killed in an Indian ambush by some Natives who disagreed that opening up the frontier was such a good idea.  They found his bloated corpse months later in a creek, riddled with arrow holes.  Back in the 1700’s, the Indians had a huge advantage because the flintlocks of the day took 20-seconds to reload, and a quiver of arrows was far more effective in a skirmish.

Anyhow, Todd was wearing a Model 1911 Army pistol and we took it out for a test-drive. 

That’s when the trouble started. 

Todd lined-up some Cheerwine bottles (A North Carolina Original) and we stepped back about 30 yards.  I quickly dispatched three bottles in rapid succession (the .45 automatic is my favorite handgun) and then it was my kids turn.  My son was eager but he only hit one bottle, and when it was my daughters turn, she wined “Ewww”, and refused to fire it, saying that she was afraid of the hefty recoil.  I got embarrassed and I yelled at her “Fire that weapon!!”

Her hands shook, her eyes welled-up with tears, and she dropped this pistol and ran into the house crying.  I was deeply ashamed and embarrassed of my pansy daughter, but I knew that it was my fault.

Hazel shot me that “evil look” that she reserved for child molesters, rude Yankees, and parents who never taught their kids to handle firearms. 

I was in a heap-o-trouble, and I knew it.

Cousin Hazel hid her disgust (she is a nurse) and she gently reminded me that proficiency with guns is a Burleson tradition dating back for centuries.  (Even though my Dad was crippled, we had over 50 guns in the house and I was well-versed in firearms.  Dad was a crack shot and he won the Air Medal in WWII when he shot-down six Japanese “Zero’s” during a single B-17 mission from Australia.) 

Now, I knew that word would get-around about my failings as a parent (I’m related to half the folks in the Albemarle area), so I swore a Solemn Oath to Hazel that I would correct my kids deficiencies if she kept her mouth shut about our shameful secret.

I kept my promise and we became regulars at the local shooting gallery where the kids got NRA safety training and a chance to shoot dozens of types of handguns, from derringers to hand-cannons. 

I started my daughter on a ladies .22 cal. Pistol with a laser sight, and I worked patiently with her, working-her-up to the long-barreled .357 Magnum used by Clint Eastwood in the “Dirty Harry” movies.  She still prefers the smaller calibers, but at least she knows that you must get a clean head-shot to stop an attacker.

By the way, Cousin Hazel has her eye on this adorable ladies six-shot derringer for my daughters 21st birthday.  It’s chrome and has six color-coordinated pistol grips, and you can change them to match your outfit.  It’s the perfect accessory for the fashionable young woman!

My next step was teaching the kids about rifles.  My bad vision has always hampered my aim and I never mastered the critical skills of “Kentucky Windage” and “leading” a moving target. 

Now, finding professional help is not hard in Kittrell, North Carolina.  One of my trainers’ husbands is a SWAT sniper for the Federal government, and right up-the-road is Carl, a retired Secret Service sniper with a reputation as a crack-shot.  Because it’s unethical to impose on employees, Carl was our only hope of salvation.

Carl has won several world-championships, and he can hit a six-inch pattern at 1,500 yards (almost a mile away where you can barely see the person with the naked eye).  Carl charges way-more per-hour than I do, and I was concerned that I could not afford him so we decided to share our shameful secret and hope that he would understand.  He heard our tale-of-woe and took pity on us, offering to take some time to show my kids how to shoot properly.

Carl and I have convinced the kids that the ability to kill someone from a mile-away is a very valuable life-skill and Carl has even got my son to thinking about applying to the FBI Academy after he finishes his PhD.  Yeah!

Anyway, we’re deeply grateful that Hazel and Carl have come to our aid. 

By golly, nobody is ever going to accuse me and Janet of being bad parents. . . .